Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror Of Fate Review
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror Of Fate is an ambitious game with high production values, but old-school fans will likely resist the game’s Western approach.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror Of Fate, developed by Lords of Shadow developer MercurySteam, has been teased as the game that would bridge the gap between not only LOS and its upcoming sequel, but also the new Western approach and the series’ 2D roots. After playing Mirror of Fate, I can say with certainty that while old-school Castlevania fans might be disappointed, this is a very solid entry in the series, and a technical showcase for the Nintendo 3DS.
Yes, everyone loves Symphony of the Night. It was a great game, and many handheld Castlevanias since have aped its design: the sprawling castle, the RPG elements, the need to backtrack through Dracula’s entire mansion. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, and plenty of people love it. That said, I’m one of those who were excited by the 2010 PS3/ Xbox 360 reboot Lords of Shadow’s fresh new direction. That game wasn’t perfect, but it was at last a 3D Castlevania that Konami could be proud of, and the story was interesting. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror Of Fate continues the tale of Gabriel Belmont and his bloodline’s ongoing feud, while calling back to the visual style of the Metroidvanias of old.
Mirror of Fate brings back Simon and Trevor Belmont, as well as fan-favorite Alucard. While it’s exciting to control these characters from a nostalgic point of view, I feel as though their inclusion will only fuel the ire of the series diehards when they discover that the gameplay is essentially Lords of Shadow in a 2D shell. As I said before, there’s nothing wrong with that, and I found Mirror of Fate’s merging of God of War-style combat and old-school platforming to be a fun change of pace. But there’s hardly any relics of the series’ past here- the RPG elements extend to leveling up and gaining new combat moves, upgrading health and mana meters, and discovering random collectibles and texts in the castle. Though it looks and sounds like classic Castlevania (the soundtrack is stellar), it called back memories of God of War: Ghost of Sparta from a handheld gaming perspective. The fact that you can’t use the directional pad echoes this sentiment. Boss battles even incorporate a lot of GoW-esque quick-time events. I know a lot of people hate these, but it gives battles a much more cinematic vibe than past handheld Castlevanias. That said, I always felt that the old games were too rigid from a combat perspective, and the new style is much more fluid and dynamic.
Unlike God of War, you’ll only be using a variation of the combat cross for most of Mirror of Fate. This armament is just as useful for dispatching werewolves and zombies as it is for grossing gaps in the environment. The streamlines control scheme allows for a more casual pick-up-and-play style, which drops the difficulty a bit. Also, purists may be turned off by the fact that Mirror of Fate auto-saves quite often – even in the midst of a boss battle. While old Castlevanias would force you to learn an enemy’s attack patterns, here you can essentially brute force attack your way through – and if you die, you’ll just pick up mid-way where you left off.
The first thing you’ll notice upon booting up Mirror of Fate is the game’s striking visuals. Utilizing a solid amount of vibrant colors, as well as detailed environments and models, MoF looks pretty fantastic. The game’s cutscenes utilize an awesome cel-shaded aesthetic, and I found myself questioning why this style wasn’t used for the entirety of this title. Perhaps MercurySteam wanted to make the cinematics stand out from the standard gameplay, but it’s a bit disappointing nonetheless. It would’ve been a great unlockable bonus. Voice acting is sparse but well-acted, though it’s a bit amateurish that the characters’ mouths don’t sync to it. As a whole, the graphics are outstanding, and I know that Mirror of Fate will look fantastic in its inevitable HD console port. What’s that? It’s exclusive, you say? So was Resident Evil: Revelations.
Overall, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror Of Fate is an ambitious game with high production values, epic boss fights and intuitive combat, but old-school fans will likely resist the game’s Western approach. That said, it’s one of the best games that I’ve played on the Nintendo 3DS thus far.